Although specific language impairment (SLI) is a developmental language disorder, researchers have increasingly identified non-linguistic cognitive deficits among children with SLI. In particular, skills reflecting executive functions ca be weak in this disorder. These skills, which are higher-order cognitive processes that control attention, thought, and action are necessary for regulating behavior, and have been found to be crucial for later school and career success. Despite its potential importance in SLI, investigation of executive function has been fragmented, leaving clinicians without an integrated view of this area, which could influence how these children are managed. The Integrative Framework Model provides a means for understanding executive functions as a set of related but separable components including working memory, inhibition, and shifting. These skills undergo rapid development during the preschool and therefore, this period represents an important developmental timeframe during which to identify delays in children's executive functioning. Evidence of executive function deficits has led to speculation that these underlying cognitive deficits may exacerbate, or even account for, the characteristic language problems of SLI. The first goal of the proposed research is to test executive function in preschoolers with SLI and typical language within the context of the Integrative Framework Model of executive functioning using a battery of verbal and non-verbal tasks that measure general attention, working memory, inhibition, and shifting. This model posits that executive function comprises related but separable components that develop hierarchically. The second goal of this research is to identify the relationship between children's executive functioning and their language-learning ability. Studies 2 and 3 will examine whether executive function skills account for a significant amount of variance in children's performance in two domains that can be impaired in SLI: learning novel lexical items and grammatical learning. This relationship will be explored in both typically developing children and children with SLI in order to determine if children in both groups are relying on the same executive function components when completing language-learning tasks. Establishing which components of executive function are problematic for children with SLI and identifying the relationship between executive functioning and language-learning are vital for understanding how cognitive deficits in SLI may relate to disordered language development and whether these factors should be considered in efforts to improve treatment outcomes for individuals with SLI.

Public Health Relevance

The underlying cause of language deficits among individuals with specific language impairment (SLI) is not well understood. Researchers have suggested that non-linguistic cognitive deficits may account for disordered language development, but there is a lack of direct evidence to support this claim. Establishing which components of executive function are problematic for children with SLI and identifying the relationship between executive functioning and language-learning are vital for understanding how cognitive deficits in SLI may relate to disordered language development and whether these factors should be considered in efforts to improve treatment outcomes for individuals with SLI.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Type
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
Project #
5F32DC014188-03
Application #
9172654
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZDC1)
Program Officer
Rivera-Rentas, Alberto L
Project Start
2014-10-10
Project End
2017-10-09
Budget Start
2016-10-10
Budget End
2017-10-09
Support Year
3
Fiscal Year
2017
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Arizona
Department
Otolaryngology
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
806345617
City
Tucson
State
AZ
Country
United States
Zip Code
85721
Kapa, Leah L; Plante, Elena (2015) Executive Function in SLI: Recent Advances and Future Directions. Curr Dev Disord Rep 2:245-252